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Dental Hygiene Dictionary

Anterior teeth- The six upper or lower front teeth
Apex – The tip of the root of the tooth
Attrition- Loss of tooth structure
Autoclave - A device that has a chamber where instruments are placed and steam under pressure is injected, in order to complete sterilization
Bad Breath (Halitosis) – An odour coming from the oral cavity usually caused by bacteria on the surface of the tongue. These bacteria digest proteins and convert these into offensive smells.
Bite wings- x rays taken of the upper and lower teeth to help detect tooth decay and bone  loss
Braces – devices used by orthodontists to gradually reposition teeth
Bridge – false teeth or row of teeth that spans between two natural teeth
Bruxism- grinding of teeth, typically accompanied by clenching of the jaw
Calculus- commonly know as tartar, usually froms on teeth due to inadequate plaque control
Cap – common term for dental crown ( see Crown)
Cavity /Decay- tooth decay or a cavity is the gradual destruction of the tooth.   The bacteria in the plaque in your mouth turns sugar on your teeth into acid.  The acid attacks the teeth and the end result creates a hole or cavity
Composite Filling – a tooth-coloured filling that looks like a natural tooth
Crown – a porcelain or gold cover for a decayed, damaged, or discoloured tooth
Curettage – removal of diseased tissue from a periodontal pocket
Cuspids or canines – the large pointed teeth at the corners of the mouth located between the incisors and bicuspids
Cusps - the raised round parts on the chewing surfaces of back teeth
Deciduous teeth - Commonly called baby or milk teeth consisting of twenty teeth
Decay – Destruction of tooth surface caused by toxins produced by bacteria
Dental Implant – Usually a titanium cylinder surgically placed in the bone of the upper or lower jaw to provide support for a dental restoration or appliance
Dentine – Inner layer of the tooth structure, immediately under the surface enamel
Enamel – The hard tissue covering the portion of the tooth above the gum line. The hardest substance in the body!
Erosion – The loss of tooth structure due to chemical dissolution by acids not of the bacterial origin, ie food & drinks
Frenum – Muscle fibers covered by a mucous membrane that attaches the cheek, lips & tongue to associated dental mucosa
Gingiva – The soft tissue that covers the jawbone, also referred to as the gums
Gingivitis – An inflammation or infection of the gingival (gum tissue); the initial stage of gum disease
Impacted tooth – An unerupted or partially erupted tooth whose complete eruption is unlikely
Inlay – A strong, durable material made outside the mouth used to replace part of a tooth and is cemented or bonded once contructed.
Interproximal – The area between two adjacent teeth
Malocclusion – The improper alignment of teeth
Mandible – The lower jaw
Maxilla – The upper jaw
Occlusion – Simply means the contact between teeth … the relationship between the maxilla & mandible teeth when the approach each other, as occurs during chewing or at rest
Oral Surgery – The removal of teeth and the repair and treatment of other oral problems, such as tumors & fractures
Orthodontics – A specialised branch dentistry that corrects malocclusion and restores the teeth to proper alignment and function.  There are several types of appliances used in Orthodontics, one of which is commonly referred to as braces
Palate – The hard and soft tissues forming the roof of the mouth
Panorex – An extraoral full mouth Xray that records the teeth and the upper & lower jaws on one film
Partial Denture – A removable appliance used replace one or more lost teeth
Periodontal – Relating to the tissue and the bone that supports the tooth (from peri, meaning “around’ and odont, meaning “tooth”)
Periodontal Disease – The inflammation and infection of gums, ligaments, bone & other tissues surrounding the teeth. Gingivitis (gums) and Periodontitis (gums & bone) are the two main forms of periodontal disease.  Also called gum disease or Pyorrhoea
Periodontal pocket – An abnormal deepening of the gum crevice.  It is caused when disease and infection destroy the ligament that attaches the gum to the tooth and the underlying bone
Periodontist – A dental specialist with expertise in surgically treating the effects of periodontal disease
Pit – A recessed area found on the surface of a tooth, usually where the grooves of the tooth meet
Plaque – A film of sticky material containing saliva, food particles and bacteria that attaches to the tooth surface both above & below the gum line.  When left on the tooth it can promote gum disease & tooth decay
Receded Gums – A condition characterised by the abnormal loss of gum tissue due to infection or bone loss
Restoration – Any material or device used to replace lost tooth structure (filling, inlay/onlay, crown) or to replace a lost tooth or teeth (bridge, dentures, complete or partial)
Root – The part of the tooth below the crown, normally encased in the jawbone.  It is made up of dentin, includes the root canel, and is covered by cementum
Root Canal – The hollow part of the tooths root.  It runs from the tip of the root into the pulp
Root Planing – The process of scaling & planning (smoothing) exposed root surfaces above and below the gumline to removed all calculus and plaque
Sealant – A composite material used to seal the decay prone pits, fissures and grooves of teeth to prevent decay.
Subgingival scaling – The removal of calculus and plaque found on the tooth below the gumline
Supragingival scaling – The removal of calculus and plaque found on the tooth surface above the gumline
Systemic – relating to the whole body
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) – This is jaw joint and is frequently referred to as TMJ.  There are two TMJ’s, one on either side, working in unison
Whitening – Tooth whitening, also known as tooth bleaching, is a common procedure in general dentistry
Wisdom teeth – wisdom teeth are third molars that usually appear between the ages of 16 and 24.  They are commonly extracted when they affect other teeth.  Most people have four wisdom teeth, but it is possible to have more or fewer.  Absence of one or more wisdom teeth is an example of hypodontia and any extra teeth are referred to as supernumerary teeth.
Xray – Xrays are an important diagnostic tooth used to visualize areas inside the bodies/objects that are otherwise undetectable.  In dentistry xrays are used to detect cavities, and also for examining the supporting jawbone and surrounding structures


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Fraser Smith Lowe Dentists
267 Pakuranga Road
Auckland 0632
New Zealand



Phone: 09 576 7676fb
Fax: 09 576 2672
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